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NASA photos show giant 'cosmic hand'

  • Story Highlights
  • Image taken by NASA's space-based Chandra Observatory telescope
  • Formation is 150 light years across, 1,700 years old
  • Photo shows what appears to be ghostly blue fingers reaching across Galaxy
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(CNN) -- New photographs released by NASA have captured images of a vast stellar formation resembling a human hand reaching across space.

NASA's Chandra Observatory captured this hand-shaped image of an X-ray nebula.

NASA's Chandra Observatory captured this hand-shaped image of an X-ray nebula.

The image, taken by NASA's space-based Chandra Observatory telescope, shows an X-ray nebula 150 light years across.

It shows what appear to be ghostly blue fingers -- thumb and pinky clearly discernible from index, ring and middle digits -- reaching into a sparkling cloud of fiery red.

NASA says the display is caused by a young and powerful pulsar, known by the rather prosaic name of PSR B1509-58.

"The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand," NASA says.

The space agency says B1509 -- created by a collapsed star -- is one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the Galaxy. The nebula is formed by a torrent of electrons and ions emitted by the 1,700-year-old phenomenon.

The finger-like structures are apparently caused by "energizing knots of material in a neighboring gas cloud," NASA says.

NASA scientist Patrick Slane told CNN that he and his fellow astronomers were more interested in the make up of nebula rather than its hand-like appearance. Video Watch Slane explain the discovery »

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"To tell you the truth, when I first saw the image, it wasn't a hand structure that jumped out at me at all, it was other more complex structures," he told CNN.

"We really concentrated on how this thing could be made rather than what it might be."

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